8 Common Interview Questions and Tips for Answering Them

Mock Interview Photo

Each step of the career marketing process is important, although the job interview is where many employers make hiring decisions. The interview gives employers the chance to evaluate how well your qualifications and skills fit into their organization. Remember YOU are the product in the interview. You have to learn to sell yourself and let the employers know you are the best candidate for the job/internship.

1. Tell me about yourself.

Do: Don’t:
· Keep your answer short – 45 seconds to 1 minute.

· Be specific about your professional experience and what you have learned.

· Align your story of self to reflect qualities the employer is looking for.

 · Tell your personal story (i.e. too many details about where you grew up or about your family)

· Emphasize unrelated job experience.

· Speak negatively about past experiences.

2400 Connection: What is your unique selling position (USP)? Use the data in your Employee Talent Profile and Marketing Analysis Assignments. Take into account the qualities sought by employers and The Vault Guide interviewing tips.


2. What interests you about this job?

Do: Don’t:
· Focus on the role and how it aligns with your professional interests.

· Show understanding of role expectations.

· Connect the role to specifics about the company.

· Talk about benefits, salary, commute or job/internship perks.

· Make the position sound like a stepping stone.



3. What do you know about our company so far?

Do: Don’t:
· Show knowledge of company mission and goals.

· Conduct market research and trends.

· Know the competition.

· Go in unprepared.

· Discuss secondhand information.

· Give critical feedback.



4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Do: Don’t:
· Take the opportunity to highlight a strength crucial for the position. Think about how your strengths relate to the organization’s need for an intern.

· Tell an impressive success story.

· Show that you are aware of your weakness and outline what steps you are taking to improve.

· Make claims you cannot support with evidence.

· Be too modest or too braggadocios.

· Cloak a strength as a weakness (i.e. “I work too hard” or “I am a perfectionist.”) – employers will see right through that.


2400 Connection: The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive. A majority of employers are adopting this style of interviewing. Your job is to prepare and practice your approach for how to respond to a behavioral interview question using the STARS approach. (Source: http://www.quintcareers.com/behavioral_interviewing.html).

The STARS Approach

Situation or 


Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did — not the efforts of the team. Do not tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you achieved What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish?
Summarize Summarize your response with what you learned that you could reapply in the future.


5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (This may not be asked in the internship search process, but it is an important question to think about – especially if you interview somewhere that may want to hire you after you graduate).

Do: Don’t:
· Demonstrate a level of commitment needed for the job you are applying for.

· Outline a realistic growth strategy.

· Emphasize long-term interest in the company.

· Discuss personal goals.

· Talk about being CEO of the company.

· Appear to have no plans for the future.



6. Tell me about a time when you failed.

Do: Don’t:
· Set the scene – tell what the story means.

· Identify the pivotal challenge.

· Describe what you learned.


· Frame it as a recurring issue.

· Complain about the working conditions.

· Place blame on others.

2400 Connection: David Hutchens suggests the following framework to turn your failure into a source of wisdom.

At the time I believed…

But I learned…

So now I …(what you are doing differently as a result)

Click the link below for his video explanation and suggestions for crafting your story.



7. Why should we hire you?

Do: Don’t:
· Point to your skills and track record that fit the position.

· Be engaging and enthusiastic.

· Demonstrate commitment.


· Tell them it would be a mistake not to hire you.

· Give off a nonchalant attitude.

· Mention other interviews or jobs.

2400 Connection: How would you describe your HOD (or other) major to a prospective employer? For example, Human and Organizational Development teaches students how to go into organizations and communities and identify and solve problems. Tell employers what knowledge, experience, and skills you have developed through your major(s). Tell the employer about the core classes, your track, etc. Give examples.


8. What questions do you have for me?

Do: Don’t:
· Prepare questions before the interview (see below).

· Ask questions related to company/market research.

· Ask questions about company culture/next steps in hiring process.

· Say, “No, I am good.”

·  Ask questions you could easily look up the answer to.

· Ask about salary (if it is an internship, it may not be paid) – but if you are asked, make sure you have a number in mind based on market research.

Sample Questions to Ask the Interviewer (adapted from the Vanderbilt Career Center):

  • What do you enjoy most about working for _______? Least?
  • What activities are routinely performed in this internship?
  • With what other departments or divisions do you interact the most?
  • What parts of the job or internship are most challenging?

For more information on Interview Tips, please visit the Vanderbilt Career Center: Career Center Tips

Finally, do not forget the HOD Internship Office is here to support you if you have any follow-up questions or would like to set up a meeting to discuss this material further. The HOD office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:30 and is located in Mayborn 104.